I tucked my hand around the back doorknob, the sun spilling over my knuckles. I held my breath and listened to the sounds inside. My mother had bought this restaurant a year ago, and last night had been a special anniversary party. I wasn’t there. The paint on the door peeled slightly, cracked...
<p>I tucked my hand around the back doorknob, the sun spilling over my knuckles. I held my breath and listened to the sounds inside. My mother had bought this restaurant a year ago, and last night had been a special anniversary party. I wasn’t there. The paint on the door peeled slightly, cracked around the edges of the single windowpane. It needed attention, like so much around this place.</p>
<p>When I opened the door, my mother had her back to me. Only the sound of the faucet running in the sink before her broke through the air. I waited for her to sense my presence – to greet me, or interrogate me, or do anything to acknowledge I was back. But she didn’t turn. She picked up another dish from the counter and ran it under the flowing water.</p>
<p>“Hey,” I ventured. The word cut toward her and hit her between the shoulders. I saw the muscles tense.</p>
<p>She placed the dish upon a drying rack and picked up the next one. She scraped dried pieces of spaghetti from the surface, the tines of a fork screeching across the plate.</p>
<p>“So, it looks like things went well last night.” I took a few steps further into the room and crossed to the fridge.</p>
<p>“Yeah.” She placed the second plate in the rack, leaning her hands on the sink edge and dipping her head. Her hair fell before her face and she looked just like the bent faucet, water dripping from it, leaking out what was inside. “Looks like you had a good night, too.”</p>
<p>My hand immediately pulled at my sweater, the same one I’d been wearing when I left yesterday. I covered up the patch of dirt smudging my elbow, the tiny rip along the bottom hem.</p>
<p>The scratches on my spine and the redness around my thighs burned. Somehow, I felt more exposed here with her than I had in those woods with that boy, with those shadowed eyes and night- stained leaves.</p>
<p>“I –” Flashes of skin, heavy weight, heavy hands. Damp tree trunk digging into my back, alcohol stinging my throat. Its sticky and subtle stench stung my nostrils still. I kept enough distance from my mother that I didn’t think she could smell it. Aches rang in my hip bones. My head still spun the way it had when I was younger and did cartwheels down the back hill. Back then, though, my mother would catch me, laughing, and tell me to be careful. I closed my mouth, turning off the urge to spill the truth about last night to her...